roe wood wharf
Image: Lisa Tse

Roe, Wood Wharf: Does Fallow’s tricky second album live up to the hype?

05 Jul 2024 | |By Zoe Gunn

Canary Wharf’s newest culinary hotspot brings small plate sophistication to one of the capital’s under-the-radar neighbourhoods

If you’re yet to visit Wood Wharf, well, I can hardly say I’m surprised. I live less than 30 minutes from this relatively recently-developed neighbourhood in Canary Wharf and, for someone with a job not remotely connected to finance, spend an inordinate amount of time in the area. But, until my recent visit to Roe, I knew it only as the location of the capital’s most easterly branch of Hawksmoor.

Given this really rather pretty spot of the Wharf is given over largely to residential towers and offices, it’s understandable. But good things are happening here. Alongside the aforementioned steakhouse, there’s also a Dishoom, which I’m willing to bet doesn’t see queues out the door every Saturday morning; NoCo, a new hotel from the Ennismore Group; a series of bars, including both rooftop and waterfront varieties; and, as of spring 2024, Roe.

Why, then, when the capital is brimming with starry new openings in the likes of Mayfair and Chelsea, would I choose to expend 1,000 words on a restaurant in such an under-the-radar neighbourhood? As with most of the best things in life, I had a recommendation.

roe wood wharf squash and bitter leaves
Image: Sophia Shoot

And not just any recommendation. Around a year ago, this website began a new series called Meet the Chef in which, well, you can probably guess the format. We end each column by asking the chef to recommend their favourite London restaurant and, be they a hot young rising star or a seasoned culinary veteran, there are two restaurants that have been name-checked over and over: Manteca (the excellent pasta-centric Shoreditch eatery) and Fallow, the St James’s restaurant founded by Jack Croft, Will Murray and James Robson in 2019.

Roe is the trio’s second act, offering a more casual spin on the seasonally-led, consciously-sourced small plates concept refined at Fallow. So, does it live up to the hype?

We visit on a balmy Thursday evening in June – primetime for Canary Wharf’s post-work drinking population – and I’m immediately struck by how peaceful Roe is. While the Hawksmoor bar across the road is packed to the rafters with suits and pencil skirts sipping espresso martinis, Roe’s canalside terrace is buzzing pleasantly with the ambient chatter of couples and small groups lingering over a bottle of rosé and soaking in the last of the sun.

roe restaurant skewers
Image: Sophia Shoot

The vibe extends inside, where a feat of architectural genius, achieved via a series of artistic columns and polished concrete dividers, turns what could have been a cavernous industrial space at the base of a nondescript tower block into a series of intimate, cosy and, most importantly, sound-dampening areas. It’s a clever trick. An open-plan airiness is maintained and yet it only takes a few full tables to create a convivial atmosphere of background chatter and clinking plates (there are, to my mind, few things worse than eating in a deathly silent restaurant).

One side of the curved dining room is dominated by an open kitchen fringed by a vast marble countertop, and it is here we find ourselves, Canary Club cocktails in hand, with a front row view of chefs firing mussels in bacon butter and turning out plates of sea bream crudo. This being Canary Wharf you can, of course, order half a dozen oysters to start and a sirloin steak for your main, but, from our prime position next to the pass, it’s clear that to do so would be to miss out on the really good stuff.

Yes, Roe is small plates dining of the it-comes-when-it’s-ready variety, but don’t panic, there’s very little chance the team here will have you splitting a single lamb chop five ways before waiting 20 minutes for a plate of charcuterie. The menu is split into Snacks, Small Plates, Skewers, Flatbreads, Large Plates, Steaks and Feasts. It sounds like a lot but, in reality, breaks down neatly into something resembling starters and mains.

We begin with skewers of rare breed pork and chicken wings. Portions are generous, each featuring five or six fat chunks of meat, smoky from a live fire grill and drizzled with lightly spicy sauces of Thai basil and chilli and padron pepper and satay respectively. We inevitably fight it out for the last remaining piece.

Next up is a small plate of cuttlefish fried toast which comes an inch thick, deep fried and with a generous layer of the minced shellfish. Yes, it’s a fancy prawn toast, but it is in this kind of playful, upscale take on classic comfort food that Roe really excels. Also on the menu is a maitake mushroom Cornish pasty, a snail vindaloo flatbread and the cryptically named ‘blooming onion’. The latter, it turns out, is a deeply delicious and hugely Instagrammable spin on onion rings. A whole onion is taken and cut crosswise almost to the base leaving it resembling a lotus flour. The whole thing is then battered, deep fried and served with garlic mayo to dredge the tear-and-share wedges through. It’s enormous fun and well worth the £12 price tag.

Often the most ordered item on any given menu, it would be remiss of me not to try Roe’s burger. Like much of the food, it’s a classic done really well. A thick venison and diary cow patty is grilled over the aforementioned fire and served in a pillowy brioche bun with cheese, bacon and lettuce. Pop in for one of these and a pint of Offshore pilsner and you’ve got yourself a seriously decadent lunchtime. We, on the other hand, choose to pair ours with a dish of baked potato, cheese sauce, shoestring fries and kombu ketchup. You can probably tell by that list of ingredients alone that this was a dish of carb-on-carb goodness made all the better by the addition of melted dairy.

roe viennetta
Image: Sophia Shoot

And so, to the grand finale. I am a self-confessed dessert dodger. I also happen to believe that there has been no finer product to come out of the industrial food complex than a Viennetta. Given Roe’s way with reinvention, you can imagine my excitement when I saw a homemade version on its menu. It didn’t disappoint. A thick slab of zingy mint ice cream interspersed with layers of rich dark chocolate came topped with swirls of chocolate mousse and candied nuts. They say if ain’t broke, don’t fix it – this is the exception that proves the rule.

Yes, Wood Wharf may seem like a long way to go for dinner. But go. Go for octopus skewers and a ‘pea and tonic’ midweek. Go for venison tartare and a spring vegetable flatbread on a first date. Go with friends and tuck into a startlingly large Jacob’s ladder. Just go. I promise you won’t regret it.

Visit roerestaurant.co.uk

Read more: The best restaurants in Mayfair